The Bangladesh Telecommunication and Regularity Commission (BTRC) is meeting this week to discuss how to allocate an additional 20MHz of mobile spectrum to the country’s cellcos, to offset the problem of network congestion in the rapidly growing market, reports local newspaper the Daily Star. Bangladesh’s six mobile network operators currently share around 80MHz of bandwidth, according to the report, and during the past year the firms have blamed a shortage of frequencies for a deterioration in service quality, including increased numbers of dropped calls and network busy signals. Operators have also claimed that the congestion has raised their costs as they have been forced to build more base stations to compensate for the lack of capacity. BTRC Chairman Manzurul Alam agreed with the cellcos, saying: ‘We feel that the lack of frequencies hinders the growth of mobile communication. We already have done our job in recovering unused frequencies and perhaps additional spectrum will be allocated by next week…The question now is how these frequencies should be distributed. At present there is little relationship between the number of subscribers and the frequency allocation. This has led to a situation where the country’s smallest mobile operator, state owned Teletalk, has the largest amount of frequencies.’ According to ‘informed sources’ quoted by the Star, the top three mobile firms in terms of subscribers will get the lion’s share of the new frequencies, namely GrameenPhone, AKTEL and Banglalink. At the end of March 2008, according to BTRC data, the number of mobile phone customers in Bangladesh reached 38.93 million. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, this figure increased from 24.01 million a year earlier, and 11.74 million at end-March 2006.
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